Outrage when notorious price-taggers attack IDF

April 16, 2014
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items, the first three telling the story, the last two commenting.:
1) Ynet news: Six Border Policemen hurt, IDF post destroyed in settlers’ rampage near Yitzhar, story begins, April 8th;
2) Ynet news: IDF takes over extremist yeshiva in Yitzhar, and continues, April 11th;
3) Times of Israel: Seven of eight suspects in Yitzhar attack set free , disappointment at missing perpetrators;
4) JPost: The pogrom in Yitzhar, Ben Caspit says ‘it’s a pogrom’ (no-one died);
5) Haaretz: In Israel, addressing the extreme right’s violence isn’t a high priority, a more sober, and cynical, analysis from Amos Harel, plus map.

arrest yitzhar yeshiva student april 2014
One of the Jewish settlers arrested for destroying an IDF outpost in the Israel settlement of Yitzhar is brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on April 10, 2014. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90.

Six Border Policemen hurt, IDF post destroyed in settlers’ rampage near Yitzhar

Following demolition of illegal structures, far-right activists tear down tents, destroy water stores and toilets at IDF post for reservists guarding the area.

By Yoav Zitun and Itay Blumenthal, Ynet news
April 08, 2014

Six Border Police officers were lightly hurt early Tuesday in clashes with settlers as they moved to demolish illegal structures at the Yitzhar settlement. Local residents threw stones at the troops as they began the demolition work and the security station at the settlement was set alight.

Two police officers required medical attention. Settlers at Yitzhar branded the demolition a “price tag” attack carried out by the military in revenge for attacks on Israeli security personnel in recent days.

Representatives from the settlement expressed disagreement with the “total” destruction of military posts, but also blamed a “policy of collective punishment” and the allowance of violence by the police.

“It can’t be that the Israeli government and security forces will destroy the homes of innocent people as part of the revenge for ‘Price Tag’ vandalisms because of the actions of a few individuals,” they said in a statement.

IDF troops in the area have been subjected to a string of attacks by settlers in recent days, including having stones thrown military vehicles and tires slashed. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said such incidents were “terror, plain and simple.”

Destroyed IDF post at Yitzhar. Photo by George Ginsburg)

“The puncturing of tires was a spit in the face, but this is knife being twisted in our back,” said one of the reserve soldiers on Tuesday.

“Some of us left families with small children at home, academic studies, places of work, and we also left behind the strong political views that most of us have for one reason: to defend the life of the settlers here and protect the law and organization here,” the reservist said.

“Instead, we must tolerate violent humiliation. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time until we see physical violence toward soldiers and police again.”

Once the violence had subsided, the reserve soldiers began receiving worried telephone calls from family members. “They called to make sure that we were ok as if we had spent the night in a battle with terrorists,” said one of the soldiers.

“I guess they forgot that if the third Intifada were to break out tomorrow morning, we would be the first to be called into the area.

The security forces destroyed five structures, four fixed and one mobile, two of which were populated. Shortly after the demolition, extreme right-wing activists arrived at the nearby IDF post used by six reserve soldiers guarding the settlement, and destroyed a water tank, toilets, electricity cables and tents.

The activists also threw hundreds of rocks at the security forces, set fire to and slashed tires, and smashed windows of surrounding vehicles, including a bus driving policemen to the scene.

Hillel, a soldier currently completing his mandatory military service, lived in one of the homes destroyed by security forces. He told Ynet that he received the news that his home was no more in a telephone call from his brother.

“I didn’t believe him, and now I’m still at my army base hoping that they’ll let me go home. I need to find somewhere to stay for Shabbat and for the Passover Seder. They just decided to go and tear down homes, like, I think that this is in revenge. But I’m very, very disappointed that I’m here in the army taking my service seriously and in the meantime they’re tearing down my house.”

Hillel added that the destruction of his home is raising, “questions about the army. To continue or not. I feel like just leaving for home and never coming back here. I give and invest everything (in the army). I was even recognized for being an outstanding soldier last week. I know it’s not personal, but they show up and destroy. I’ve given three years of my life for my country. Now I’m asking, why should I? They destroyed my home and I’m still here giving and investing.”

“The vast majority of residents in Yitzhar are law-abiding citizens and ordinary people. Some serve in combat units in the army, and there has never been a problem with them,” said an officer from reserve battalion stationed there.

“It’s just a shame that the vandalism in recent days receives backing, or at best loose condemnations from representatives of the communities. These settlers refuse to understand that these extremists, which turned to hundreds overnight, hurt them first and foremost.”

“A friend of mine called me at 3 am to say that police were surrounding his home,” said Eliyahu, a Yitzhar resident whose house was demolished Tuesday.

“I don’t understand why I personally am being punished. After everything the Jewish people went through in the Holocaust, their grandchildren are now busy destroying the houses of other Jews.”

Israeli Border Police troops outside Od Yosef Chai yeshiva, Yitzhar, West Bank, April 11, 2014. Photo by Moti Milrod

IDF takes over extremist yeshiva in Yitzhar

Army stations a company of Border Police soldiers at the ‘Od Yosef Chai’ yeshiva following the settlers’ rampage against an IDF outpost nearby.

By Yoav Zitun, Ynet news
April 11, 2014

A company of Border Police soldiers has been stationed in Yitzhar following the attack on a military post near the settlement, the IDF spokesman said Friday morning.

Central Commander chief Nitzan Alon has issued a warrant for the seizure of the “Od Yosef Chai” yeshiva and studies at the Talmudic college have been halted until further notice.

The IDF said the decision to have soldiers manning the yeshiva was made according to operational considerations, as it serves as the headquarters out of which violent attacks against nearby Palestinian villages and security forces are launched.

The yeshiva was evacuated overnight ahead of the military’s takeover, and was turned into a Border Police outpost.

The company has been stationed in Yitzhar “in light of the recent acts violence against security forces and in order to meet security demands,” the IDF spokesman said.

The army also noted there was a “security necessity to have a constant (military) presence in the settlement.”

The IDF spokesman also said that the army and the defense system considers the recent acts of violence and lawlessness to be very grave and will take any measure to put an end to such violence.

“But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad (Exodus 1:12),” the yeshiva wrote in response to the IDF’s takeover.

“This is the first time the State of Israel closes a place of Torah study, because of the Torah being taught there,” the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva said. “Turning the yeshiva’s building to a military post is an act of desecration of a holy place, according to the Jewish halacha.”

“The yeshiva was previously banished from Joseph’s Tomb, but its voice has become louder and louder despite the authorities’ constant harassment. In this case as well the yeshiva intends, God willing, to continue Torah study and continue broadcasting the voice of the Torah in the area.”

Ya’alon authorized
The decision to seize the yeshiva was approved by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who accepted the IDF’s recommendation to take the building using units from the Israeli Border Police.

A security source noted Friday morning that this decision is, “The first step of many decided upon in the meeting that will be carried out in the field in the coming days.”

During the situation assessment meeting Ya’alon said, “As far as I’m concerned we’re talking about terror and we need to treat these events accordingly. These are intolerable occurrences that are very severe and we must put an end to them.”

“To this end we are using a strong hand against these criminals,” continued Ya’alon. “We will not ignore violence against soldiers, police, or innocent Palestinians and whoever chooses to behave this way will pay a price.”

“We need to take all of the tools at our disposal to deal with this problem, and I don’t intend to give up on this issue. If there is responsible leadership in Yitzhar then they need to step forward. If not, we will know to take uncompromising action against this problem as well,” said Ya’alon.

Security forces chose to target the yeshiva citing its reputation of extremism. Former commander of the Central Command, Major General Avi Mizrahi, said to Ynet this week that, “This yeshiva doesn’t teach Torah. It teaches evil that needs to be eliminated.”

The decision is reminiscent of actions taken during the Second Intifada when the IDF took control of Palestinian structures in towns and cities and turned them into permanent outposts manned by soldiers.

The IDF is considering taking further steps against violent settlers including cancelling the yearly pilgrimage to the ruins of the Homesh settlement which takes place every April.

On Thursday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended the remand of five suspects from Yitzhar settlement who were taken into custody on charges of taking part in the destruction of the nearby military post this week.

At the same time, the courts decided to release two additional suspects, one of whom said, “This is a Bolshevik arrest.”

The other released prisoner commented, “We have no connection to this, we’re just on a trip in Jerusalem.”

Seven of eight suspects in Yitzhar attack set free

Just 1 suspect in destruction of IDF post still in police custody; Border Police close and take over settlement yeshiva

By Times of Israel staff
April 11, 2014

The police on Friday released four of the Israelis arrested earlier this week on suspicion of destroying an army post near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

According to Israeli media, one suspect was released after IDF reservists did not recognize him as one of the settlers involved in Tuesday’s incident. Earlier on Friday, the Jerusalem District Court ordered the release of three other suspects and instructed them to stay away from Yitzhar. Three others were let go on Thursday.

Thus only one of the eight arrested earlier this week by the police for destroying the IDF encampment outside Yitzhar, located near the city of Nablus, remained in police custody as of Friday evening.

Security forces had arrested five residents of Yitzhar on Thursday, two of whom were teens between the ages of 16 and 18, Channel 10 reported. The other three were aged 23, 28, and 29. Two other suspects were arrested Wednesday, one from Yitzhar and the other from the settlement of Havat Gilad.

On Thursday night, a Border Police company took over the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva building in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, as security forces continued to take steps against violent acts originating from the community.

According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the structure was selected “based on security needs to prevent violence and vandalism targeting security personnel and the adjacent villages originating from the yeshiva.”

Classes in the yeshiva building were suspended indefinitely.

Sources from the yeshiva called the move “a desecration of a holy place,” according to Israel National News.

“The yeshiva was kicked out of Joseph’s Tomb in the past, but it’s voice is growing stronger despite the government’s ongoing harassment.”

The move, approved by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, came after three days of increasingly violent confrontations this week between residents of the settlement and security forces that culminated early Tuesday morning in residents raiding an IDF command post near the settlement after security forces pulled down a number of illegal buildings.

Army reservists stationed in the settlement failed to turn back a rioting mob of dozens of settlers, who demolished their post and equipment in a violent predawn incident.

The settlers were protesting the overnight demolition of five illegal buildings in the West Bank community. The attack began just after the five structures were demolished by soldiers and policemen, according to police spokeswoman Luba Samri.

Some 50 Jewish rioters then attacked the military headquarters in the settlement in an attempt to tear the structure down. They also hurled stones, burned tires and slashed tires on vehicles, police said.

During the melee the settlers threatened the soldiers, all reservists, telling them to stand aside to avoid getting hurt. They then began to destroy army property in the settlement.

Eight people, including six Border Police guards, were injured. All of the military equipment at the site was destroyed, including tents, heating equipment, a toilet, and a water tank.

Police responded with “riot dispersal means,” injuring two settlers, Samri said. Eight people were arrested.

From Arutz Sheva: police forces descended on Givat Lehava, in eastern Yitzhar, on Tuesday morning, and began demolishing two caravans and another two partially-completed homes.

The pogrom in Yitzhar

By Ben Caspit, Opinion, JPost
April 13, 2014

The police destroyed a number of illegal structures in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar on Tuesday. This is not dramatic news. The drama started with the immediate settler reaction to the police action. Dozens of settlers marched towards the IDF post located at the edge of the settlement where they carried out a pogrom. The settlers removed six reserve soldiers from an army tent and began to destroy the place.

The reserve soldiers who were pulled away from their civilian lives to protect the settlers, begged them not to burn their tent so that their personal possessions would not be destroyed. The rioters spared the tent but destroyed everything else at the post. The soldiers looked at the scene in shock and did nothing. When the rioters left, the post that was meant only to protect the rioters themselves, looked like a Jewish shtetl after the departure of the Cossacks. This is no exaggeration. The photos of the scene were splashed across television and the Internet.

The “Kingdom of the Mountain” that has arisen alongside the state of Israel has been provocative for years. But this recent act has reached a new level. These provocateurs do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty, despise its values, see the state as a rebel entity that desecrates their values. This group is gaining power in front of our eyes. Dozens of settlers destroy an IDF army base on their settlement and return home freely. I believe that this has not happened in Israel ever. They have no fear, they have no regret, they have no God. They are not akin to small areas of weeds in a field. They are the field and we are the weeds. It is either them or us.

After the incident came the usual reactions. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon responded with the usual lip service. A couple days prior, Ya’alon called the settlers slashing the tires on an IDF officer’s jeep at Yitzhar “terror for all intents and purposes.” While Ya’alon was speaking, another IDF jeep had its tires slashed at the same spot in the settlement. Then, the events described above took place.

Ya’alon stood before the cameras exuding authority and promised to bring the rioters to justice. A few hours passed before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu released a statement condemning the incident and said he gave his backing to Ya’alon. If the story was not so scary, I would laugh.

A few days after the incident, a “wave of arrests” in Samaria was reported in the media. It turns out that two youths were arrested. A true wave of arrests. How will this end? As it always ends. Either the police will have no evidence or insufficient evidence, or will be released on condition, and will be tried, but merciful Israeli judges will order that they cannot reside in Yitzhar for a number of months or they will be sent to do public service, or something of that order.

All means are used to fight terror, Mr. Ya’alon. You know how to fight terror first hand. You, Mr. Ya’alon cannot label something as terror and then fail to provide the security forces all available resources to fight it.

Jewish terror, that is growing up in our midst is an existential threat. It is a greater existential threat than both Palestinian terror and corruption of state institutions as demonstrated by Ehud Olmert. This cancer is quietly eating away at the state from the inside, below the radar. When it begins to be painful there will be nothing left to treat because it will be too late. We are at a decisive turning point. Ya’alon is a principled person, and he is a straight shooter (sometimes this causes problems). He is a man of the rule of law and is a real statesman. His political power also depends on the settlers, but I am certain that the factions responsible for these violent acts against the IDF are reprehensible to him.

The sovereign in the West Bank is supposed to be the IDF under the mandate of the minister of defense. I hope that Ya’alon will consider the situation over the weekend and will reach the necessary conclusion: the time has come to instill order in the West Bank. The time has arrived to restore the sovereign. The fact that the problematic elements among the settlers pay no notice of the IDF, the police, and the state, is distressing.

nablus -district-map
The settlers in Yitzhar (lower left quadrant, on a mountain overlooking Nablus) have had a history of violence towards Palestinians and law officers since they set up their outpost in the West Bank in 1983. They have been leaders in price-tag attacks and vandalism of Palestinian property.

In Israel, addressing the extreme right’s violence isn’t a high priority

The public security minister has described attacks by settlers on army outposts as ‘terror,’ but that’s just lip service.

By Amos Harel, Haaretz
April 11, 2014

To borrow from the cliche, it was the puncture that broke the camel’s back. On Sunday, Col. Yoav Yarom visited the settlement of Yitzhar, part of preparations for him to be succeeded as Samaria Brigade chief by Lt. Col. Shai Kleper. After the two men met with Yehuda Liebman, a resident of the settlement and a lieutenant colonel in the reserves, the two went outside and discovered that their jeep’s tires had been punctured.

Liebman represents the settlement’s pro-government wing, which favors full cooperation with the authorities. But the extremist wing’s damaging of military property certainly didn’t surprise Yarom, whose tires were punctured three months ago during another meeting at Yitzhar. After the 2005 Gaza pullout, many of his predecessors were treated similarly, depending on the tension at the time between the settlers and the Israel Defense Forces.

The puncturing of the tires was revenge for the demolition of buildings at Yitzhar last week. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon saw the demolition as a chance to redraw the red lines between the defense establishment and the settlers. Despite his hawkish views toward the Palestinians and his close ties with settler leaders, Ya’alon sometimes appears willing to confront them for violating the law, especially when it comes to attacks against the security forces.

On Monday he approved another operation: the demolition of four buildings at Yitzhar. Ya’alon didn’t deny that this was retaliation for the punctured tires, and the settlers paid him back with their first-ever demonstration near his home, not that this fazed him.

Attacking the IDF

The violence was more serious when five Border Police companies showed up to provide security at the demolition Monday night. The police said dozens of residents threw stones at them and burned tires, and that more than 600 people tried to prevent the operation from happening. But the big story was the work of the 50 or so settlers who raided an IDF encampment near the settlement. They wrecked the place while six reservists looked on and did nothing.

As usual, the nighttime pogrom led to a wave of condemnations, from the defense minister up to President Shimon Peres, who was visiting China this week.

Surprisingly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was silent. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein convened an urgent meeting of law enforcement officials and announced greater efforts to stop violence on the extreme right. On Tuesday, the police arrested three Yitzhar residents suspected of taking part in the rioting; the next day they arrested five.

In the near future, surveillance by the police and the Shin Bet security service might make it hard for Yitzhar extremists to act. But as usual, the main price will probably be paid by the residents of Palestinian villages in the area. There will probably be a repetition of “price tag” attacks against Arab property, and maybe against mosques, too.

Despite the sudden media interest, which for some reason wasn’t as great when the victims were Palestinians, it would be naïve to assume that the shock shown by government officials this week will change their relations with the settlers.

Addressing the extreme right’s violence is not a high priority for the government. In recent months, the army, the police and the Shin Bet have joined forces to deal with Jewish ultranationalist crime; this can be seen in the increase in the number of indictments and restraining orders for suspects in price-tag attacks. But there’s still a very long way to go.

The rioting at Yitzhar was no surprise for the government. This is Netanyahu’s second consecutive term as prime minister and Yitzhak Aharonovitch’s second consecutive term as public security minister. Aharonovitch called Monday’s events “terror for all intents and purposes,” adding that the perpetrators should be treated accordingly.

But this is just lip service. Neither the police nor other authorities have treated attacks by settlers against the IDF or Palestinians the way they treat Palestinian terror, which kills and wounds far more people.

The sad truth, which is well understood by the IDF, the police and the settlers, is that in most cases the tough talk is merely talk. Soldiers and police will receive limited support if they clash with settler lawbreakers, while extremist settlers have broad political support that helps them avoid punishment. At most, they receive light punishments.

Unwritten rules

MK Orit Strock (Habayit Hayehudi), who represents the settlers in the Knesset, condemned the security forces’ actions at Yitzhar. This week she received some good news. Despite the opposition of the State Prosecutor’s Office, the Shin Bet reduced by nine months the prison sentence of her son Zvi, who was convicted of abusing a Palestinian boy.

The bottom line is that the violent attacks against the army and the police (not to mention the Palestinians) serve settler extremists and don’t necessarily damage the settlement movement as a whole, despite the condemnations. Hilltop extremists scare their Palestinian neighbors and, for the most part, deter the security forces as well.

The district commanders come to the West Bank for two years and soon understand the unwritten rules of the game. They’re aware of the price for overenthusiastic enforcement of law and order. It’s enough for them to see how the last four Central Command chiefs have been targets of demonstrations by the extreme right — right outside their homes. Even their families get harassed.

The reservists whose encampment was destroyed have expressed their share of bitterness and frustration. Their commanders explained that the reservists didn’t act because they didn’t feel they were in danger and weren’t prepared for this contingency. They were sent to do reserve duty to protect Jews — that’s the thinking.

There is logic to the first part of this explanation. There is no reason to open fire when there is no real danger to human life. Basically, the security forces follow the oral law in the territories, as it were, which forbids them from firing on Israelis even if lives are in danger.

The second part of the explanation is groundless. First, the duty of the reservists’ commander — or that of his superiors — is to prepare the soldiers for such scenarios.

Second, the brigade didn’t land in Yitzhar from the moon. Anyone who says he was surprised is pretending he hasn’t followed the news over the past decade. A reservist who enters Yitzhar is allowed to be surprised if the residents greet him with a “good morning,” not if they puncture his tires.

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